Back up a minute, and take another look at yesterday’s link to the “Weird Japanese Video” on YouTube that looks to be a daily fitness video/English lesson from the early ’90s (judging by the haircuts.) My intelligence network correctly identified these as Zuiikin’ English — a late-night Fuji TV show from 1992, and therefore, a parody rather than what we were all secretly hoping it was: a totally misguided attempt at educational programming.
This video completely played into my (perhaps, our) preconception that “Japan is crazy” and that the Japanese would make this kind of material with a straight face. When I showed this to Japanese friends, they also bought into the idea that the video was real and ridiculous. Zaniness is still integrally bound up within the national image of Japan — even, apparently, for the Japanese.
Originally, I was going to write this post about how Japan media content is visibly and palpably less crazy now, but that we Westerners, through the power of YouTube, will be able to raid the huge archives of unseen Japanese footage to keep us occupied for another decade or so as to prolong the concept of Japanese Wacky. The surprise turn is that the Japanese also recognize the kitsch value of their past, and moreover, were so cognizant of their frequent botched attempts at dealing with Western culture that they could satirize it in real time.
And here: this final episode straddles the line between Nihonjinron and parody of Nihonjinron.
Also, I am like three months late on this whole thing, but mostly because I do not own the Internet.